Isobel Cowell is Head of Social at Kurogo, and a LinkedIn Top Voice: Next Gen. And she's done this all this in less that six months, going from panicking about her post-graduation future, to having over 20,000 followers on LinkedIn. She tells Rob Barratt at The Industry Leaders how she did it - sharing some incredible tips to help you do the same.
Could you tell us about who you are and how you got where you are today?
Yeah. So I'm actually quite a recent university graduate. So I graduated summer 2021 from the university of Birmingham where I studied history and politics, not marketing.
And I knew like from day one, like when I went to university, I knew I'm not gonna be a politician. I just loved history and politics but I knew I wasn't going down that path so that left me with a massive like panic when I left university.
I wanted to do marketing into my last year of university, so I did all the graduations and stuff and then got a job as a social media / digital marketer at this small, Birmingham agency. It wasn't until I got a message from Sam Winsbury, a friend of mine and the Founder of Kurogo, on new year's Eve asking if I was interested to come on board and look after personal branding for their LinkedIn clients. I had, like, barely any followers of my own at the time!
So I made this like full like 16 slide presentation and then, yeah, I got hired the next week. And since then I kind of started building my own personal brand on LinkedIn. So posting on LinkedIn a lot because basically I wanted to learn for my job, 'cos I didn't really know what I was doing!
And then you built a huge community of your own on LinkedIn - how?!
Like it's so funny. All of this was very new year's resolution based and I've got this document on my laptop and it says I wanna hit 5,000 followers on LinkedIn by the end of the year and 1,000 followers on Instagram, which, which for me were like really ambitious kinda targets.
I started posting a lot about being a 20 something in the world of work and getting into work and building your personal brand. It obviously resonated a lot with 20 year olds, but also a lot of like founders and like people further along in their career. I think a lot of them were seeing the same issues too.
So I had around like 750 followers on LinkedIn at the start of January 2022 and now it's like around 17,500. I also had zero on Instagram in February and I think it's like 2.6K or something like that now which is crazy.
In terms of how I did that, when I started off as personal branding I followed the Gen-Z personal branding people, and I commented on their stuff every single day. Then they started coming to my mind and then we got into each other's DMs, and now I have them all on WhatsApp and I talk to them every single day. And I kind of know that they're gonna interact with my stuff. Not cause they feel like they have to, but because they're friends and we've got to the point where we're interested in each other's content.
[Quick note from Rob: Florian Decludt and Prateek Sanjay told us pretty similar stories about how they also went from tiny to huge followings on LinkedIn too]
Are there any other things you did right to grow that following so quickly?
There needs to be a reason why I'm writing anything on LinkedIn and there needs to be a level of consistency too. Everyone's like, oh, 'your first post is the hardest'. No, no, no, no, no. The first post is the easiest! It's showing up every single day that's hard.
So those are kind of the main things, like have a mission, be consistent and find people in your niche to talk to.
Everyone's like, oh, 'your first post is the hardest'. No, no, no, no, no. The first post is the easiest! It's showing up every single day that's hard.
Did you find posting on LinkedIn daunting at all?
It frightened me a little bit, because in many respects, I might have thought 'who am I to give people this moral?', you know, I'm not perfect - I am the biggest imposter syndrome person in the world! Like I have it on a daily basis.
And I've spoken about this on my LinkedIn. I've spoken about having anxiety and stuff like that really gets to me a lot of the time. If you try to talk about things you don't know about that's where the anxiety comes in. But if you find something that you are really, really confident in, that changes your outlook. It's a case of asking what actually am I good at?
I did a talk the other week, with like a bunch of students who want to become entrepreneurs. And a lot of them are scared to talk about themselves 'cause they're like, oh my God, that sounds really like egotistical or up yourself and stuff. And I think, especially as British people, we have that like, oh my gosh, 'I don't wanna talk about myself' feeling. But I think sharing your story is a really, really great way for entrepreneurs to grow that following. And it's so cliche, but people buy from people - and cliches exist for a reason.
Ellie Middleton's amazing at this. She's neuro-divergent, has ADHD and I think she's just been diagnosed with autism as well. And she's done this whole thing being like, 'I am professional', like I wear jeans to work and I've got tattoos and I have ADHD, but I get my work done and I am professional. So, being authentic and breaking down those barriers I think is really important.
How did you learn what makes a successful LinkedIn post?
Write exactly how you speak. Voice note your post first, then transcribe it. To be honest, it doesn't even have to be grammatically correct - I add ... all the time, exclamation points, and cut sentences off halfway through. Because your post needs to be visually pleasing. Not in the sense it needs a photograph, but in the way that it kind of is shaped, you don't want like three long lines out for each other, like there needs to be a good flow to it. Add emojis if you want to help yourself with this.
And always, always, always go back to the audience.
I think that's something that I picked up along the way, and I think that's kind of been a big game changer on my posts. Your audience will like it and when you give something back, it needs to be value based. That doesn't have to be 'five steps to grow your business', that's not what value means, it could just mean a take home point.
Ok, I just wanna finish just by asking what has the rest of the year got in store for you? Seeing as you've already smashed your targets!
Well, I 'm currently at Kurogo and like that's kinda exciting, like we're growing rapidly, like rapidly! We almost can't hire quick enough, like we're hiring like crazy at the moment. It's kind cool to see it growing. So I'm excited to be quite involved with that.
I wanna start building out blogs and do a lot more kind of master classes and coaching. Like, I feel like that's where, like my passion lies as well. so hopefully a lot more of them in the future.
Right now I'm also building out my website and I wanna start getting more consistent on that too. But in terms of my growth, I feel like it's always about constantly having building blocks in place and just getting 1% closer every single week.